Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/9/2009
Publication Date: 10/14/2010
Citation: Sauer, T.J. 2010. Improving the issuing, absorption and use of climate forecast information in agroforestry. In: Stigter, K., editor. Applied Agrometeorology. Springer: New York, NY. p. 695-699.
Technical Abstract: Agroforestry includes a range of practices that combine partial canopies of perennial woody vegetation (trees, shrubs, or hedges) with below-canopy production of forages, arable crops, fruits, berries, and nuts, herbs, or medicinal plants. Agroforestry systems can be broadly grouped into windbreaks and shelterbelts, silvopastoral systems, alley cropping, forest farming, and riparian buffers. Modern agroforestry practices often mimic components of multilayered canopies of natural ecosystems, especially in tropical or subtropical settings. An agroforestry practice, even within an ecoregion, may include a diversity of species often with the overriding objective of optimizing productivity (food, forage, fiber, or fuel) on an areal basis. The various practices are, of course, adapted for differing climatic conditions and to accommodate economic opportunities and cultural preferences. Establishment of an agroforestry system represents a significant initial investment in capital and physical resources with the economic return and environmental benefits distributed over ensuing years and perhaps decades. This makes adoption rates very often low in developing countries. It is now essential to consider potential consequences of climate variability and climate change during the design phase of new agroforestry systems in order to limit potential negative impacts on the growth and productivity of any new plantings. Although agroforestry practices are inherently more resilient to environmental stresses, sharply increasing global demand for food, fuel, and fiber will translate into intense pressure to produce more of all of these commodities per unit of land area. Climate variation and climate change and the uncertainty surrounding these factors will further reduce the margin of error in designing agroforestry systems for the future. Large-scale climate forecasts as well as locally-observed trends in temperature and precipitation patterns should be carefully assessed prior to initiation of new agroforestry systems. Once established, performance of the system components (survival, growth, and health of perennials, yield of annuals) should be closely monitored and management changes initiated as necessary to compensate for observed environmental stresses introduced by a changing climate.